Test prep: Brain Gym, yoga, and extra support grows


Every morning during the week-that-shall-not-be-named—April Standard Based Assessment (SBA) testing week—Redoubt Elementary prepped for the school day with an active gathering in the gymnasium. The elementary school counselor, Lisa Schmitter, led students through a series of Brain Gym exercises, yoga poses, and dancing. Students received support from teachers and administrators, along with smiles and encouragement from younger students. While walking to their respective classrooms to begin SBA tests for the day, cheering younger students waving handmade affirmation and encouragement posters lined the normally quiet hallways of Redoubt Elementary.


Brain Gym exercises are comprised of twenty-six activities, and were developed by educator and reading specialist Paul E. Dennison, and his wife and colleague, Gail E. Dennison. “The interdependence of movement, cognition, and applied learning” is the basis of their Brain Gym work, now being utilized in over eighty-seven countries.

Students pinched their ears, stretched, wiggled, and held positions. Principal John Pothast joined in. Students actively engaged six of the twenty-six Brain Gym exercises, along with several yoga poses.


Brain Gym Exercises

  • Cross crawl: connects the left brain (language and logic) with the right brain (music and spatial)
  • Lazy 8: develops eye muscle coordination, reading speed, symbol recognition and decoding
  • Thinking cap: focuses attention on hearing; enhances short term memory and processing inner dialogue and thinking
  • Brain buttons: assists with reading skills and memorization
  • Arm activation: increases attention span for written work, improves focus, and enhances ability to express ideas
  • Owl: mathematical computation, memory for spelling or digit spans, listening comprehension


  • Half-moon: energizes and grounds
  • Downward Dog: energizes and sends additional blood flow to the brain
  • Warrior with vocalizing, “I am strong, I am intelligent, I am smart I can do this, yes!” Activates feelings of confidence
  • Eagle Pose: bilateral activation of the brain and confidence builder


Testing days can be stressful for children at home in the morning, and during test times. The innovative start to the day concluded with dancing in a circle to provide unity and stress release. The Brain Gym and yoga exercises are designed to disengage the stress response and build confidence. Younger students lining the hallway holding and waving “You Can Do It” posters was intended to inspire older students to do their best, and provide an opportunity for the young students who were not taking the tests to feel connection and care, and grow their positive school culture.

The positive feedback from students and staff was tremendous. Principal Pothast said, “I knew they’d like it—they liked it a whole lot more than I expected. We are beginning to offer Brain Gym movement and activities and dancing every morning in the gym from 8:30-8:45 a.m. I plan to start my day in the gym too!”

Link: Brain Gym  

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